Retail recovers in March

Shopper with facemask

UK retail sales increased 8.4% on a like-for-like basis last month, compared to March 2019, when they had decreased 1.1% from the preceding year, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

The upheaval caused by coronavirus last year meant much of retail bounced between being open and closed. This significantly impacted sales and the ability to make meaningful comparisons, therefore 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic). Furthermore, in March, like-for-like has been measured excluding temporarily closed stores but including online sales.

On a Total basis, sales increased by 8.3% in March, against a decline of 0.5% in March 2019. This is above the three-month average growth of 2.7%.

Over the three months to March, Food sales increased 14.7% on a Like-for-like basis and 11.6% on a Total basis. This is higher than the 2019 Total average growth of 1.4%. For the month of March, Food was in growth year-on-year.

In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 44.4% on a Total and 44.0% on a Like-for-like basis over the three months to March. This is worse than the 2019 Total average decline of 3.1%. For March, the like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.

Over the three-months to March, Non-Food retail sales decreased by 4.5% on a like-for-like basis and 4.7% on a Total basis. This is below the 2019 Total average decline of 1.3%. For the month of March, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.

Online Non-Food sales increased by 94.0% in March, against a growth of 3.0% in March 2019. This is above the three-month average of 90.8%. Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 43.3% in March 2020 to 58.0% this March.

British Retail Consortium Chief Executive Helen Dickinson commented: “As we pass the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, the retail industry has generally remained strong, despite numerous challenges.

“The next six months will be make or break for many retailers. Over the past three lockdowns, non-food retail stores have lost £30 billion, so many retailers will be relying on growing consumer confidence, and a return to town and city centres to fuel their recovery.”